Saturday, April 14, 2012

Every Journey is an Experience to Relish

In a recent interview Veeru Devgan (a former technician in Hindi film industry) said that he came to Mumbai to become an actor but ended up being an action director. He was happy for his son Ajay Devgan who could become a successful actor. That reminds me of my father (professionally a driver) who once told me that he wanted a desk job which would require him to do some paper work. And then, when he came to know about computers, he changed his mind and told me that doing something with computers in an air conditioned office would be a great job. It was too late for him to get that opportunity and further, he was no more till the time I started doing such a job.

Many-a-times, we think we have done something that our previous generations couldn’t. This thought process can also take the reverse direction. We hear our previous generation telling us things that they did and we would never get to do. I am not talking about technology revolution, which has changed things and will keep changing things time and again. And of course, we would definitely not like to go back to the letter press age from digital printing. But I wish some things could continue. Something, very ethnic!

One such example that tops my wish-list of revisiting is something my late grandmother had expertise, my mother knows moderately, and I or my wife won’t be required to learn. I was very fascinated to observe the way my grandmother used to separate husk from rice with a winnow. It might be sounding easy, but one would take months to learn that art and still might not perfect it. Even my mother is able to do that. But every time I asked her to do in a different style, she would disappoint me saying that it was something my grandmother could do. I would also like to mention that my notion is same for some old recipes.

In Oriya calender, there is a month called “Margasira”. Women out there worship Goddess Lakshmi on all the Thursdays in that month. So, on every Wednesday, someone would produce a white paste by rubbing a white stone against a rock. The paste would be used to create a piece of art on a red-colored circle or square – a mixture of red soil and water produces the red color. It’s a fine art piece on the floor, which is made of two earthen elements – stone and soil. Now-a-days, we get some models and some powder. The powder is sprinkled on the model and the rangoli is ready.

When I was in my hometown, I used to visit all the theaters on my bicycle on Thursday evenings. Theaters would get new hand-painted postures and put a garland on the bigger star’s image. I also used to run behind the auto-rickshaws that carried the large size images and an announcer sitting inside the rickshaw used to describe some information about the movie and timings of exhibition. At that time, the announcer’s job was my favorite. He was someone people used to run after. Anyway, it was fun to try to recognize the stars from the postures. Lately I removed this appointment from my calendar when I started finding the digital postures at every nook and corner of the city and also there in the theaters.   

Once I got a chance to cook some dish on a firewood oven. I was required to blow air through an iron pipe to intensify the fire. Though I initially thought it was a very easy act, I failed miserably. Instead of intensifying the fire, I contributed to extinguishing it. I will hardly get any more opportunity to do it the right way. These days, I just press and turn a knob to intensify the fire for cooking.     

These are just the few things I wanted to mention of my experience. There are many more like this which you might have loved to perform or observe while being performed. It will be stupid to say that the practices should have continued. However, I would definitely like to say that the journey through these practices was a wonderful experience. I feel nostalgic whenever I revisit the memories and will relish it throughout my life.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

English! Keep it simple, silly!

Have you, just like me, come across people who think smoking adds to their “cool” factor? You may also find a bunch of people who have a similar type of notion about the usage of the word “fuck” while speaking English. I don’t know how much it contributes to the effectiveness of their communication and what impression they leave on others, but one thing I can say is that general variations definitely keep the new learners from being confident, accurate, and universally accepted. 

In my childhood, I was super-excited when I stepped into the 4th standard in school. The only reason of this excitement was that I would get to learn English language, something that I waited for 3 years. Just as it happens to everyone, my formal English education started with the alphabets A to Z. I was really happy. I thought English was an easier language compared to my mother tongue as the earlier has only 26 alphabets whereas Oriya has 56 of them.

When I could write A to Z properly without any error, my teacher told me that I needed to learn writing one more style of the same letters – a, b, c, d, etc. Once that was done, I was made to learn a third type followed by a fourth type, huh! I was so bewildered, if someone asked me to write something, I would ask innocently, “in which letter – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th?”

Some years passed till I got a hang of the language, being able to write and speak. Once that was done, I faced a new challenge. It was when I was in an interview and the interviewer asked, “In which language, you used to write in your previous organization?” I said, “English, sir”, with an obvious look. He was not entertained at all. He said, “No, I mean, American English or British?” To fake, I said, “British, it’s British.” I assume one of the two possibilities is responsible for me getting rejected in that interview - either the interviewer didn’t like my accent or he could make out that I had no idea about the difference between American and British English and was simply faking. Anyway, he said, “Let’s see how it goes. We will let you know about the result later.” I thought, this might be the British way of saying “You are rejected.” Because I had heard that Americans are supposed to be straight forward. Later when I researched about the difference between the two languages or rather the two forms of the same language, I discovered that it was not about the set of words with which you convey your message but about spelling differences, about some variations in grammar and pronunciation, and also about using different words to explain the same meaning. And before I could rest, I discovered another shade of the language – Canadian English (phew!).

The strange outcomes of my tryst with English language didn’t stop here. Because "speaking" is used in communication far more than "writing", the spoken English has gone far away from the written language. In short, more confusion is taking place. Now, if you say someone that what he/she wrote was wrong English, don’t get surprised if you get an answer saying “I have heard it somewhere” which leaves no room for an argument.

I assume, a time will come when acronyms of certain word groups will be added to the dictionary, for example: - EOD for ‘end of day’, ASAP for ‘as soon as possible’, BRB for ‘be right back’, BTW for ‘by the way’, etc. These acronyms are so extensively used in today’s time in emails and SMSes that they lose their essence in their real form (when spelled out). And of course, if I had taken the trouble of writing ‘electronic mails’ and ‘short message services’, you might have said “WTF”? So, doesn’t the use of acronyms add another variation to the language?

English doesn’t come naturally to people like me who do not get their formal education with this language as the medium of instruction. They rely more on books and advises from every nook and corner to improve proficiency. That reminds me of one of my friends, who once advised me to use “you know” and “I mean” frequently while speaking. I didn’t bother to do so, unless there was a literal requirement. Recently I watched one of the shows of Russel Peter (a Canadian stand-up comedian) who made fun of the frequent usage of these phrases in speaking. He says, people who forget words use these phrases to make up for the dead air in communication. Now, some of us can even manage to fill in the gaps without using these phrases. We make some sounds like ummm.. and aannn.. (no, I don’t want to say that it is quite similar to an orgasmic sound). Another variation, definitely!